2020 graduate overcomes illness to achieve her goal

Shauna Elliott knew college would be hard. The late nights and long papers would keep her busy, and being away from her family would be tough. But she could do it. She had plans of going into nonprofit work, and she wanted to be able to approach her work with an unwavering foundation in Christ. She knew what school she wanted to attend, and she knew what she wanted to do following graduation. 

But the one thing she didn’t plan for was getting sick. 

In the fall of 2018, Elliott, an English major, said she started feeling strange. She was getting a lot of headaches, and her vision started to blur. She thought it was probably just her body responding to the stress of the end of the semester, but when it started to get worse, she knew she needed to see a doctor.

“The first doctor I went to diagnosed me with a sinus infection, so I got on the medicine thinking it would all clear up in a few days. That was during Christmas break,” she said. “When I came back for the new semester, I was still dealing with a lot of nausea and dizziness, and I spent almost all of my time sleeping. The scariest part is that I was starting to lose my vision.” 

After visits with several different doctors, Elliott finally had an answer. She was diagnosed with idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), which is characterized by high pressure in the brain. Often, IIH mimics the symptoms of a brain tumor.

“There is no cure for it,” she said. “I was so scared because I had everything mapped out, and I just didn’t know what to do with this.” 

Despite the uncertainty, Elliott pushed through, and, as of May 16, she will be a graduate of Trevecca.

Elliott started her college career at a different school, but after one semester, she knew it wasn’t the place for her. She moved back home to take some general education classes at a local community college while she figured out what she really wanted.

“I knew God was directing me to a Christian school that would allow me to get the biblical foundation I wanted to work from, and I knew I wanted to go into some sort of nonprofit or social services work,” she said. “When I was looking for schools, Trevecca reached out to me and made me feel like they really wanted me to go there. I felt really valued.” 

She said when she got sick, her professors—particularly Dr. Jooly Philip, associate professor and chair of the department of English—rallied around her and made it possible for her to finish her degree. 

“Everyone was just so gracious. At the beginning, my vision was so bad that I couldn't even read my emails, so Dr. Philip would email my mom to check on me. And that was during her sabbatical. She was concerned about me regardless of whether I would be able to come back to Trevecca,” she said. “Dr. Philip was such a blessing and a vital support to me. She went above and beyond what a professor would typically do. She would pray for me and ask about how I was feeling. I think that says a lot about the person she is and also about the kind of professor Trevecca hires. I am so thankful to her. Without her help, I’m not sure I would be graduating,” Elliott said. 

Philip is honored but her student’s words but says that it’s Elliott who has left an indelible impression on her. 

“She is quite remarkable,” Philip said. “One of the most beautiful things about her is her humble reliance on the Lord. Her comments in conversations that we had in my office and in-class discussions revealed a person who was serious about matters related to her faith. My prayer for her is that she will continue to grow in the knowledge of her Savior and in His love for her. I know that many will see the love of God through her quiet, gentle and unassuming spirit,” she said. “She is a graduate whom Trevecca will always be proud to claim as her own.” 

By Bailey Basham, ’17
Media contact: Mandy Crow, mmcrow@trevecca.edu, 615-248-1695